A Response: “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage”

Love Makes a FamilyIn the August Ensign, we find an article called “Disciples and the Defense of Marriage” by Elder Russell Nelson, an apostle.

The message of this article feels familiar: if we consider ourselves Disciples of Christ, then we will obey. God’s will is for men and women to be in monogamous, heterosexual (traditional) marriages – and in addition to being in these relationships, we should defend them.

In delivering this message, Elder Nelson uses strong, definitive words like “the most”, “cannot yield”, “warn”, “stern judgment”. And sets up several binaries like “love means obedience”.

Elder Nelson is straightforward in his approach, rather than nuanced. To me the topics of discipleship and marriage are complex, and I would like to add some further ideas to consider.

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Back to the Hive

wasatchI am in Utah. On vacation. Or visiting. Or doing time. It’s complicated.

I have only lived in Utah as a resident for five and then two years – as a college student, and then as a fiance and newlywed. But I have been connected to the state my entire life. My grandparents lived here when I was growing up and now both extended families and many friends dot the Wasatch Front. It should be easy, one-stop shopping for home and nostalgia.

I remember as a kid, living in the Midwest and driving west on Interstate 80 every summer, from Michigan, Illinois, Iowa. And then for a time from California over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The pull to Utah felt epic, as though we were following a path behind a long line of pilgrims, drawn to the mecca, the center of our ethno-religious gravity. I would watch the changing landscape, through endless Nebraska, until the subtle coloring and slopes told me it was Wyoming and I began to get excited. My mother would distract us, pointing out the antelope, encouraging us to keep looking for the mysterious jackalope, but we knew this was just to save her sanity. We were now in proximity to ask the question we had been waiting for: “are we there yet?” Driving in another car years later, going east instead of west, I cried to my new husband: “how can I leave when I have only just settled in?” It did not seem right to move from our families and the place I perceived was home to a deeply held identity.

And yet these are romantic memories. Utah is also a place where I have always been the Other. We were the grandchildren who lived away, showing up to a world of established routines and relationships, always the new kids. I arrived at BYU from “the Mission Field” with frizzy black hair, owlish glasses, and intellectually some (un)holy mix between young Oliver Cowdery and Joan of Arc. Most of my fellow classmates were sporting pink Izod shirts, skirts with tiny whales, and perfect blond bobs. They liked their religion tidy and their education fun. No one wanted to engage in textual discourse with the intense weirdo who made her own clothes and wore Vans shoes with gingham skirts. I was a cultural outsider and profoundly undatable.

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¡Bienvenido! (Welcome!)

As you have noticed, the Exponent has begun to have some of its lesson plans translated into español to share the hearts, minds and stories of women as far and wide as possible.* This post is to introduce one of the español translators who has blessed us with his bilingual talents. Please join us in a belated welcome to César! 

 
Traducción Inglés/Click for English Translation

 
Mi nombre es César Carreón Tapia y soy mexicano. Soy mormón desde hace ya 9 años y recientemente me reconocí como un ‘feminista mormón’. Todo comenzó cuando perdí a mi privilegio en la Iglesia por ser gay y asi fue cuando finalmente me di cuenta: Pude ver la desigualdad a la que nos enfrentamos como miembros de la Iglesia, yo creía que no podía hacer nada para ayudar a cambiar el status quo, pero encontré una gran cantidad de apoyo y comprensión de la comunidad de mormones liberales en internet  -el “bloggernacle” – y así fue como llegué a saber sobre The Exponent II. Leí la historia detrás del blog y pensé que podía darle a mis conocimientos de idiomas un buen uso y me ofrecí a traducir los mensajes regulares para las lecciones de la Sociedad de Socorro.

 

CesarYo había trabajado anteriormente en la traducción de la página web oficial de la Iglesia, The Vineyard, así que tenía un poco de experiencia con la jerga mormona. También participé en la traducción del sitio en español de “Afirmación: Mormones LGBT, Familia y Amigos” y en la traducción de algunas de las Conversaciones de Ordain Women. He encontrado mucho gozo al traducir todos estos materiales a mi lengua materna! Y no sólo por los efectos de la difusión, sino por todas las personas increíbles que he conocido a través de este asignaciones!

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August Young Women Lesson: How can I prepare now to become a righteous wife and mother?

Traducción española/Click for Spanish Translation

This is a very tricky lesson to teach! Be sure to be mindful of those who do not fit the cookie-cutter mould in your branch, ward and/or stake so that the lesson does not border on the offensive or appear to be making judgement of others’ lives, circumstances and choices (to so do this would only undermine the concept of marriage, making the lesson an anti-marriage lesson).

 

To start, I went and reviewed both the lesson for Young Women (YW) and Young Men (YM)girls leadIt was surprising to me how vastly different the lesson materials were. The YW lessons were in a passive voice, and even included a subsection titled, “Share Experiences,” which heavily contrasts the YM’s “Let the Young Men Lead.” Now, I think sharing experiences is a good thing, but I also think that having the Young Women lead the lesson is also important. When I was a Young Woman, my Mia Maid (MM) teacher always had the MM President begin the meeting. She had the MM President assign someone to conduct, lead, and then turn the time over to her, as the teacher. Her example in this is still one of the most important in my life, because it taught me that I was allowed to be a leader (to peers, at home, etc.). I recommend you do the same in your classes so the YW gain confidence in how to manage people (a very important skill to learn in managing a family, roommates, etc!)

 

Teacher Preparation:

By this age, (at least for any of the youth classes I have taught in the church) the students already “know” the rote answers they are “supposed to know.” I am a huge fan of digging deeper after they give me the rote answer, by asking them if they agree or disagree with the rote answer that they have been taught and have them supplement their thoughts by asking them “why do you think this is the answer?” and “why might this not be the right answer”. I suggest doing this with the Young Women in your class, thereby encouraging them to think about the answer they are giving. Then ask them if they agree or disagree, and challenge them to develop a testimony of the answer they are giving.

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A Testimony: Jesus Loves Gay Marriage

A Testimony: Jesus Loves Gay Marriage

Jesus_w_childrenLike many Mormons, I was raised to believe that sexual attraction was a choice. Anything other than heterosexual desire expressed through a Mormon temple marriage was inferior and possibly deviant. But I lacked fervor when it came to defending marriage. My testimony of California’s Proposition 8 was weak. It seemed like every young single adult in my stake was phone-banking or bearing a testimony of heterosexual marriage in a campaign commercial. But as I studied the issue of marriage equality I could find no legal, social, or moral basis to support limiting marriage to only heterosexual couples. It became a test of faith for me.

I loved President Monson and believed a prophet of God could never lead me astray. I attempted to put my faith in action with a Facebook post and bumper sticker in support of CA Proposition 8. I waited for the warm outpouring of Spirit to confirm my faith that I was standing for God. But, instead I accidentally overheard a conversation between those wounded by LDS support of Proposition 8 that helped me to realize I could not be an activist in support on this issue. I recognized I was contributing to the harm of people I cared about and took no further public action. But I still wanted to sustain President Monson and voted yes on Proposition 8, waiting for a testimony to confirm that my act of faith was the right choice.

Eventually a testimony came. But it was not the testimony I had sought out. Instead, I gained a testimony that marriage equality is essential to the plan of salvation; gay marriage strengthens families and heals and protects children.

This is my conversion story:

As an adoption social worker in Los Angeles, specializing in older teen adoption; my caseload was predominantly older children of color. The one exception was Joshua. A toothy pumpkin grinned boy living in a predominantly black neighborhood with an elderly black couple in their eighties. His foster parents were ready to retire from fostering and anxiously awaited the day Joshua could be placed with a permanent family for adoption. The lone white boy in his neighborhood, Joshua was frequently bullied for his socially awkward behavior.

Joshua was popular at adoption recruitment events with white parents looking to adopt a child that bore some family resemblance to them. At 10-years-old, he was still on the cute side of puberty. Joshua desperately wanted to belong to a family. His birthday wish each year in foster care was to be adopted.

Joshua was matched for adoption with a wealthy couple. Devoutly religious and empty nesters they had an abundance of time, experience, religious motivation, and wealth to pour into parenting Joshua. I was thrilled with the parenting assets they brought to the match.  After an extensive screening, they began to visit with Joshua in a process of increasing contact with initial short visits progressing to longer overnight weekend visits.

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Changing my mind

brainI have a new job. Same company, but a new boss and new responsibilities. Intellectually, I am pleased. The new position is challenging, needed and supported. Every detail has lined up perfectly, and yet two months in, I am feeling a little lost. I am overly sensitive and questioning everything. I am tired. Cranky. Slow. Moaning at work/life balance and then when home, staring out the window instead of quilting, reading or riding my bike.

What is wrong with me? I have been asking this question over and over. Snap out of it! This is a great opportunity! Go for a walk and get it together! After moping around for weeks, I finally have a diagnosis. The job will be fine. The problem is me. My world is moving fast and my emotions are a tangle of neurons cowering in my primitive brain, scanning nervously for sabor tooth tigers. I am having a textbook change response.   

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